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The Infamous Performance Evaluation: How Your Approach Makes A Difference

For those that have worked in the corporate setting, performance evaluations are most likely a ritual you have become accustomed to. I have worked for a variety of tech companies ranging in size, and I have had a few tech companies of my own. My observation has been the larger the staff the more structured and mandatory they become.

I, for one, have enjoyed conducting performance evaluations, as well as receiving them. I feel any opportunity there is to learn where individual growth is available is a win-win. Sadly though I have noticed a pattern in my colleagues and peers when it has come time for evaluations: they grow in mistrust towards the process and intention of the performance evaluation exercise all together. One resonate theme I found in most of these individuals is their approach. For one, they saw it as mundane and for lack of better words, a waste of their time. I have worked with even the harshest cynics that ONLY did evaluations because it was required – not because they actually felt they were getting value from them. They didn’t understand the purest intention of doing the evaluation. For the one receiving the evaluation it is meant to gain a different perspective and hopefully take away something (at least one thing … and if you’re lucky you will take away more) they can identify as an area to grow, professionally. For the one giving the evaluation, I feel it is one of the largest responsibilities you owe the individual receiving the evaluation in helping them understand where they are shining and where they should consider putting attention and focus in their professional development.

So, what gives? Well, one important element is the shift in mindset one should have when it comes to performance evaluation. If your fortunate enough to be a leader and are expected to perform an evaluation, don’t get stuck in the rut of “I’m to busy”. I have heard this over, and over, and over again from peers that verbosely state they slapped words on a performance evaluation form hours before the evaluation and didn’t have the time to put endearing thought to it. This becomes a huge element to the mistrust factor staff feel. And, yes, I have even had a boss (… or two) confide they didn’t put the time to my own evaluations and were only conducting them out of corporate policy. The one receiving the evaluation can sniff it out in a few minutes to how much thought you put into their evaluation and most take that as reflection to your interest in their potential and growth at the company. Think about it: You give it little effort – they give a little effort in return. I’m not saying it’s right, but I’ve seen it happen unfortunately many times.

If you’re the individual receiving the performance evaluation, you have to walk into these with a receptive mind. I recently had a wonderful woman working on my team that came into my office one day perturbed and bothered by the feedback given to her from one of my managers. When I reminded her the objective of the evaluation is to give her ideas on where she can grow, professionally, it was amazing how she let go of some of her defensive posture. With individuals with high standards for achievement, such as herself, it is difficult to initially hear they aren’t perfect in all eyes of the almighty company! I can completely relate to how she felt – I was like that for many years when I was receiving feedback until I recognized that perfection is only a word, not the journey. Once I realized I was missing the point all together and I should really be focused on identifying where I can grow I became less self-justifying. I needed a mindset shift in my approach as the recipient!

Whether you are the giver of the performance evaluation, or the recipient of the evaluation, your approach is crucial to the outcome of the evaluation.

  1. Evaluation Giver: Take the responsibility of providing meaningful and relevant feedback seriously. If you find you have a pattern of not being able to devote the earnest time to this during peak performance evaluation time, seriously block 2 days off of your calendar – label it “Out of Office” – go somewhere outside of distraction – get those evaluations done! You’ll be so happy you did it, and you’ll equally feel achieved when giving the evaluations.
  2. Evaluation Recipient: Walk into these with an open, receptive mind. The responsibility of the evaluation giver isn’t to tell you only what you want to hear; they are also expected to tell you some things that may be hard to hear. But, by getting it out there and using such circumstances as opportunities for improvement you walk away with substance. And, if you are being given feedback and you don’t understand where the evaluation giver is coming from – ask for specific examples they used to draw their conclusion or judgment. This can definitely help you understand the different perspectives people have. The last thing you want to do is walk into a performance evaluation defensive and closed. If you are already in that mode it isn’t the right time to do the evaluation!

You may find me odd – and I am okay with that! – but I am one of those that sincerely enjoys giving performance evaluations. And, over the years I have learned from my experiences … and those of others … that have helped me appreciate how vital the approach of both the evaluation giver and recipient is.

I hope you enjoyed … and may the force of awesome evaluations be in your future 😉  If you have additional advice you’d like to lend our readership – experiences you’ve learned from – or general feedback … please comment!

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